Transcending borders through constant reinvention

Interview with Michelle Crossan-Matos, Samsung Electronics America

Michelle Crossan-Matos SVP, Chief Marketing & Communications Officer, Samsung Electronics America

How helpful do you find the notion of ‘category’ or industry when you think about Samsung’s evolving competitive environment?

Oftentimes, brands tend to define their next product or service based on their immediate industry competitors. But we view the competitive landscape in much broader terms. It’s critical to look beyond your industry and think about other products and services that consumers are passionate about, and what expectations and opportunities that might create for your brand.

Over the last 20 years connection has redefined business and driven new requirements around relevance – from Web 1 to Web 2 and now to Web 3. How do you think brands can stay ahead in a Web 3 “connection economy”?

There’s a first-mover advantage for brands that explore (and master) new channels early. Consumers are hungry for an experience-based connection – and that’s just what the metaverse was built for. The Web 3 realm offers plenty of untapped value in the relationships and connections brands develop with consumers – allowing for marketers to move beyond storytelling to ‘story living,’ which puts consumers at the center.

Samsung is expanding its presence in the virtual world. How are you creating and delivering immersive brand experiences to fulfil the human need to connect? What’s next at Samsung 837X?

As an experience-minded brand, Samsung is harnessing the metaverse to power consumer education around our strategic pillars (sustainability, customization, and connectivity) and engagement through immersive, interactive adventures.

To date, we’ve launched three virtual experiences in a Web 3.0 environment that we’ve developed called “Samsung 837X” – a world modeled on our Samsung 837 flagship experience center in New York City. The metaverse experiences were timed to real-world activations: the first around CES in January; the second in February for Samsung Galaxy Unpacked, our biannual event, and our “Turning Red Hearts Green” sustainability campaign; and we launched our third activation surrounding our “You Make It” customization campaign.

As for what’s on the horizon, we plan to keep innovating – and creating unexpected experiences. It’s tremendously exciting to explore and tap this new frontier that encompasses entire digital societies and economies to connect with audiences and grow a community.

We haven’t just transcended categories, we’ve also innovated around new business models centered on designing personalized end-to-end consumer experiences.”

What moves have you made, (or planned or observed) that have enabled Samsung to transcend its original category and drive relevance and growth in new areas?

From our very humble beginnings as a black and white TV manufacturer to our position today as a global technology leader, Samsung has always had a passion for innovation. And that innovation transcends categories – from home entertainment to mobile, home appliance to digital signage, and semiconductor to emerging technology like 5G, AI, and IoT.

We consider ourselves to be ‘relentless pioneers’ that push boundaries and defy barriers, redefining what’s possible. It’s because of that pioneering spirit that we’ve been able to rewrite smartphone history, create an entirely new TV category, usher in a whole new era of customizable home appliances, launch smart hubs that power our lives, and build bold sustainable innovations that protect our planet. As a result, our brand is so ubiquitous across American households that more than 72% own at least one Samsung product, and 1 in 4 U.S. households own three or more. (Source: Samsung Electronics America CMI study) And we’ve advanced our position on Interbrand’s Best Global Brands ranking to #5.

But we haven’t just transcended categories, we’ve also innovated around new business models centered on designing personalized end-to-end consumer experiences. Samsung launched one of the industry’s first hardware and software subscription service, called Samsung Access. The monthly subscription offering gives consumers the ability to upgrade to the latest Samsung device, so they’re always on the forefront of what’s new without being tied down, plus Samsung Care+ coverage and exclusive productivity or gaming benefits.

Moreover, open collaboration is central to Samsung’s innovation playbook. That’s why we have an open ecosystem to speed up cross-category innovation by stimulating active collaboration with developers and partners to redefine customer experiences. Democratization is also key as we’ve gone through great lengths to democratize access to our technology and the experiences they power. This is all part of our ‘Together for Tomorrow’ vision, highlighting Samsung’s efforts to usher in a new age of togetherness, with customizable experiences that reflect consumers’ evolving lifestyles, and innovations that mark progress for both society and the planet.

How can brands that facilitate connection avoid the pitfalls of becoming utilities – only noticed when going wrong.

As with any relationship, the consumer relationship must be earned. To engender trust and loyalty, brands need to build a genuine connection with consumers that is meaningful, authentic, and personalized – while also being grounded in shared purpose. They have to consider the value they offer and identify the key connection points beyond the products and services, such as the experiences they create based on those shared consumer values.

Looking at the four capabilities we think are critical for success in the Connect Arena (content, devices, interfaces, infrastructure), how would you describe your contribution to each? Are some more important than others and why?

The four capabilities are equally important to our brand. Samsung products are vehicles for content like the suites of fitness and wellness offerings within Samsung Health on our Smart TVs and mobile devices. Device-wise, only Samsung’s diverse portfolio of connected products across mobile, home appliance and consumer electronics can make it easy for people to customize solutions that work best for their life, work, and wellness — all with one integrated system. Everyone has their own way of using their devices, and through our One UI user interface, for example, consumers can unlock the full potential of the Galaxy experience and make it unique to them. And Samsung is also a global 5G infrastructure leader. In fact, we make all the parts integral to 5G: chips, network equipment, and devices, including smartphones.

In general, we’re seeing an accelerating demand for hyperconnectivity across the ‘Connect Arenas’ areas that Interbrand is zeroing in on. Consumers have come to expect a unified, personalized, and anticipatory experience. In response, Samsung is taking connected living to the next level – and, as always, centering it around people, their evolving needs, and their passions.

What are the insights you’re seeing that are driving people’s behaviour in this arena today?

Consumers attitudes and expectations towards brands have evolved – especially in the last two years. Based on the rich data and analysis provided by our internal Consumer Market Insights group, the social listening and AI-powered focus groups that we’re regularly conducting, and the direct conversations that we’re having with our customers at Samsung 837 and our five Experience Stores, we’re finding that consumers want to support brands that benefit society and the planet.

For instance, consumers are telling us that they want to be co-creators; 70% of Millennials and 77% of Gen Zs want to put their own personal touch on the products they buy and the brands they support. (Source: Kantar) And Samsung is empowering consumers to embrace their individuality and customize their tech to express themselves, reflecting their current and evolving tastes, through our #YouMake initiative. Consumers can take the lead with customization in more ways than ever before via a variety of product designs and multi-device experiences – like with our Bespoke home appliance and Galaxy Z Flip3 smartphones.

At Samsung, we understand the new realities that consumers are experiencing and the high hopes they have for the future. That’s why we’re creating ground-breaking innovations that give consumers the flexibility and versatility they need for today’s fast-paced world; make life, work, and wellness more connected, productive, and convenient; boldly express their self-identity in new ways; and make smart choices that reduce both their energy bills and their carbon footprint.